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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Tales from the Hood: Collector's Edition (Scream Factory) Blu-ray Review + Screenshots

Tales from the Hood is one of the best horror films of the 90's. It takes all that is good about horror and mixes it with the black experience living in the 90's to perfectly scare the audience as well as inform. 











THE FEATURES ⭐⭐⭐1/2


Audio Commentary with Rusty Cundieff

Cundieff gave a great commentary on Fear of a Black Hat and I expected the same here. Cundieff is a well of information about the making of the film and tells all kinds of behind the scenes stories. There is no dull moments here.

The Making of Tales From the Hood (56m 12s, HD)

This is a wonderful look back at a film that didn’t find its audience right away. We learn about how the film came about then we are taken through each of the stories in the film. There are many from the film that have participated in this making of, including co-writer/actor/director Rusty Cundieff, co-writer/producer Darin Scott, actors Corbin Berson, Wings Hauser, and Anthony Griffith, and some of the make-up and effects crew as well. We do not hear from Clearance Williams III, Spike Lee, or any of the other actors. That would have been a great treat to have everyone in this doc, but what we have is great to begin with.

Vintage Featurette (6m 4s, SD)

This is a featurette that was made at the same time the film was being made. While we get to see a lot of behind the scenes footage, we also get our only interviews with Clearance Williams III, Spike Lee, and many of the other cast members. Since this was made back in 1995 when the film was made, we do not get the twenty-plus years of reflection that the other making of brought.

Theatrical Trailer (1m 41s, SD, 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio)

This is a good trailer for the film and one of the only greenband trailers that I have ever seen that 
contains the word “shit” in it. I guess that the MPAA isn’t always on their game.

TV Spots (3m 26s, SD)

We get seven TV spots that look more or less the same.

Photo Gallery (9m 46s, HD)

There is no music playing like you would find on other still galleries like this and that is really weird, sitting there for almost ten minutes watching photos, posters, and behind the scenes photos fly by with no sound or music.

THE PACKAGING ⭐⭐⭐1/2

Scream Factory has given us a beautiful package here.


The slipcover has a nice collage of scenes from the film as painted (or drawn) by Joel Robinson. The artwork is colorful and touches on almost all the big points from the film. Very impressive.



The front cover is reversible. One side we get the newly commissioned artwork and the other side is the film’s original theatrical poster, featuring  a dark grey skull wearing sunglasses and sporting a gold tooth. The film’s original tagline “Chill or Be Chilled” (which is a great tagline) is featured here.


The back cover gives us the usual special features listing and credits, but this one is a bit different. 
The slipcover tells us that there is an audio commentary featuring Rusty Cundieff and Darin Scott. There is no such commentary as it was lost after it was recorded earlier this year. The slipcover was not changed, but the back cover on both sides of the insert are updated to include just Rusty Cundieff on the track.


The disc art features a scene from the first story with a cop being lifted into the air by the zombie civil rights activist.

The disc is REGION A (locked)

THE PICTURE ⭐⭐⭐1/2


Tales from the Hood has been kicked around for a long time before being picked up by Universal and licensed by Scream Factory. The film was given a VHS and Laserdisc release back in 1995 and then a DVD release sometime early in the formats life and that was it. We didn’t get any type of anniversary edition or any re-release of any kind. Those who had the DVD had the deal with its subpar picture and terrible sound.

In comes Scream Factory, who has saved the day before and will again. They have given Tales its due and the picture is the first thing that got fixed. We get the film in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and the film has never looked better. Colors pop off the screen and skin tones look nice. Definition and clarity are nice although there are times where the picture is blurry or the quality dips a bit. There is a thin layer of grain that reminds us that we are watching something that was “filmed”.

I think that Scream has done a great job on this transfer, even if there could have been a better restoration done, maybe Universal wouldn’t have allowed it, or the effort was out of the budget that Scream has allotted for this release. The fact that we have a proper release of the film is the important thing here.

THE SOUND ⭐⭐⭐


Scream has given us two tracks, although I am not sure why. Both tracks are DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, but there is nothing too different about the tracks. The first track is the default track and it sounds great. The film has a lot going on at times and the track is able to keep up with it. Dialogue is crisp and clean and there is no distortion that I found.

The second track sounds almost the same, but dated. The sound is more muted than the other track and there is a hissing on the track. I think that Scream is adding untouched tracks to blu-rays so that fans of that particular film can have their track (the sounds that they remember) and others can have a track that has been cleaned up and smelling nice.

THE FILM ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Tales from the Hood came out at a time when horror films were at their lowest. Being a horror fan, meant that I had to sit through hours and hours of crappy direct to video garbage to find one horror film that I could tell my friends about. Even fewer horror films were released to theaters. Sure, Lord of Illusions and Tales from Crypt Presents Demon Knight would be two of the standouts when it came to 1995 horror films, we also got Village of the Damned, Vampire in Brooklyn, Rumplestiltskin (which I skipped school to go see in the theater), Hideaway,  and The Mangler to “entertain” us.

Then in May of 1995 we got a film that could have been good or bad, Tales from the Hood.

Now, I was looking forward to this film because of the director’s (Rusty Cundieff) previous film, Fear of a Black Hat, which I think is one of the funniest films ever made. The film showed that Cundieff could handle comedy, but horror was a whole other picture. Thankfully, we didn’t have to worry, as Cundieff and crew crafted a horror film that also had many comedic moments, but was, most importantly, scary.

When three drug dealers (Samuel Monroe Jr., Joe Torry, and De'aundre Bonds) are called to a funeral parlor to collect a stash of drugs, they are greeted by the creepy, eccentric Mr. Simms ('Clarence Williams III'), who proceeds to tell them four moralistic tales of terror regarding the deceased who lie in his parlor. The first tale concerns a man murdered by crooked police officers (Tom Wright) and the officer who begins hearing his voice from beyond the grave (Anthony Griffith) to avenge his death. The second story deals with a boy named Walter (Brandon Hammond), the monster who torments him (David Alan Grier), and the teacher who realizes that something is wrong (Rusty Cundieff). The third story deals with a white supremacist running for governor (Corbin Bernsen) who lives in an old house with a history of racial violence and who refuses to heed the warnings of the supernatural presence that occupies it. Finally, the fourth story deals with a career criminal (Lamont Bentley) who agrees to undergo a horrific behavioral modification program overseen by a government-employed scientist (Rosalind Cash). The stories each become gradually scarier as Mr. Simms go on and as the drug dealers begin to lose their patience, until they are ultimately given what they have come for - and find that there is something much more evil to the funeral home than they ever realized.

The first story is told through the eyes of the rookie cop who witnessed the beating. He brings the murderous cops to the cemetery and watch as the cops are terrorized and killed by the murdered man. While this story deals with racist cops, it also touches on the power of the badge. The rookie cop is quits the force and drinks himself into a stupor because he knows that the higher ups with side with the racist cops. There is also the issue of drugs in the black community. Used needles are found everywhere (and used by the murdered man) and during a struggle between one of the racist cops and the murdered man, the cop rips open the man’s shirt (taking his rotted flesh with it) to reveal a crack pipe inside, signifying that the problem goes deeper than people think it does.

The second story deals with child abuse. This is something that is a bit more universal than racist cops and, I think, is the standout of the film. David Allen Grier, known for playing comedic characters on In Living Color, in downright scary as the abusive stepfather. Seeing this film twenty years after its release, I was still in awe at how this, and the other stories, held up. Director Cundieff creates a ton of suspense in this story and makes monster real. 

The third story is about a racist running for governor. He moves into an old plantation where he is haunted by the spirits of slaves who worked and died on that plantation. The slaves come back as dolls that mess with the racist’s head and end up attacking him.

This story is a bit of a letdown because all of the cards are on the table from the get go. There is no suspense or sense of dread. We know what is going to happen and that takes away from the story. The performance by Corbin Bernson is great and the effects work by the Chiodo Brothers is always top notch. I wish that the filmmakers would have let the story breathe a bit more. It still is an effective story, but diminished a bit by the shortness of the piece.

The final story is the weakest of the stories. It concerns a gang member who is offered a chance to change his life and live after being gunned down after a failed drive-by. He is subjected, Clockwork Orange style, to a series of awful images of crimes against blacks, not just by racist white people, but also black people as well. The film tells us that everyone can commit hate crimes, even against your own race. This fourth story leads into the conclusion of the wrap around story, but that is for you to find out.

The wraparound story, about the gang members going to the funeral home to buy drugs, is your typical anthology wraparound story. What makes this one better than others is the performance by Clearance Williams III, who plays Mr. Simms, the owner of the funeral home. Williams defines over the top in such a gleeful way that you want the other stories to conclude faster so that Williams can come back onscreen. The way the man says “The shit? Oh, you will be knee deep in the shit!” gives me goosebumps every time I watch it. The man can play creepy and funny at the same time like few others can and he is one of the highlights of the film.

Tales from the Hood is a film that should have been a big hit when it was released. I think that the studio releasing the film in the summer was a bad idea and that they should have waited until September or October to release it. The film would have found a bigger audience. As it stands, Tales from the Hood is one of the best horror films to come out of the 90’s. It is scary, funny, well made, and tells stories that most people can relate to, not just black people. This is a film that needs to be seen by horror fans.

OVERALL ⭐⭐⭐1/2


Tales from the Hood was screaming for blu-ray release and Scream Factory was the right company to answer the call. They have done a great job with this release. The picture and audio quality are great and the special features are really good. The film is a favorite of mine and I hope that a lot more people see the film because of this release.
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